The Pioneer - LympheDIVAs

Providing options for Breast Cancer Survivors

As a breast cancer survivor, I'm all to familiar with the side effects that come with treatment, and the onslaught of uncomfortable changes within our bodies.   Hair and memory loss, fatigue, brittle nails, infection, pulmonary embolism and depression where just a few of the hiccups I had to deal with.  Speaking with fellow survivors, I've witnessed their struggle's and watched in awe as they managed another common side effect - Lymphedema.  

Lymphedema  a blockage in the lymphatic system, that leads to the build up of fluid in arms and legs, can happen to breast cancer patients after removal and damage to sentinel lymph nodes.  Risk of damage to the lymph nodes in the armpits, chest or neck area, can happen when the breast surgeon removes the sentinel nodes for biopsy to determine if cancer cells have spread or the lymph nodes have been radiated.

Treatment for Lymphedma usually consists of wearing a compression garment, usually in the form of a long sleeve that covers the arm from finger tips to just past the elbow.   I've heard from survivors that the compression sleeves worn on the arm can have a real medically, generic, heavy material, old school look.   Although the sleeve was functional, survivors pointed out the ability to have a fashion forward, attractive accessory was definitely challenging.   Lastly, survivors complained about of the cost for the sleeve and insurance coverage.  

Well.  several years ago two young, gutsy breast cancer survivors Rachel Levin Troxell and Robin Miller decided there had to be a better way, and approached fashion designer Kristen Dudley to create a line of innovative, comfortable, fashion forward, medically correct compression apparel for breast cancer survivors, that  gave birth to their company, LympheDivas.   Shortly after Robin left the company in 2007, Rachel discovered her breast cancer had returned.  Sadly,  after a valiant fight, Rachel, a native of Philadelphia, succumbed to breast cancer.  She was just 37 years old.  Rachel's legacy of determination to bring comfort, fashion and improve the lives on.  LympheDIVAs is a pioneer in the compression apparel department and continues to put out a vast array of visually stunning, medically correct, innovative garments.  

A family affair, Rachel's father Dr. Howard Levin and mother Judy Levin took over the responsibility of running LympheDIVAs.  In addition in 2010 Rachel's beloved little brother Josh Levin joined the company, and is now serving as President.  Luckily for me, I was able to grab a few moments with Josh to discuss some really important aspects of LympheDIVAs, including the companies continued commitment to the breast cancer community and their wonderful "Seconds" initiative.

So it was the eve of my second surgery for breast reconstruction (swapping out the temporary tissue expander's and replacing them with silicone implants) when I decided to squeeze in my first interview of the year.  I super excited to chat with Josh but mindful that the interview was taking place a day after the ninth anniversary of his big sister, and co founder Rachel's passing.  I did not want to appear pushy, but I really wanted to find out more about LympheDIVA's and get the info on their how consumers can participate and purchase garments through their discounted "Seconds" initiative.

What struck me first about Josh was his apparent enthusiasm (it was 10:00 am and he had fantastic energy, even for a phone interview) and his voice (kinda crisp and deep, like he should be doing TV voice over's or radio work).  Below is an excerpt from the interview with Josh Levin, President of LypmpeDIVA's.

Sweetlenox:  Thank you Josh for taking the time to chat with me.  Yesterday was the anniversary of your sister Rachel's passing (1/22/08), what do you think she would have thought about the progress LympheDivas has made in the last nine years?

Josh Levin/President:  "I think Rachel would be proud of the direction the company has taken.  At the time Rachel was running the company, she had wonderful vision and insight, but the company had not begun to turn a profit.  LympheDIVAs has grown into a company which now employs 13 people and has been profitable for the last six.  In addition, LympheDIVAs has been committed to providing options to those who have been diagnosed with Lymphedema, created change in the industry and forced big companies to address the quality, style and efficiency of compression garments. LympheDIVAs is not the only ones in the business manufacturing compression garments, but we definitely brought attention and change to the industry.

Sweetlenox:  "Josh, you are the little brother, but you have taken on the task of leading this company.  What inspires you?  What is your favorite part about running LympheDIVAs and being the the top dog in charge?

Josh Levin/President: "My favorite part about my position is that I get to help people.  In my former line of work I didn't feel like I was contributing to the greater society.  As President of LympheDIVAs, I get to directly change peoples lives, and continue to my sister's legacy.  Lastly, I really like being my own boss.  

Sweetlenox:  "I've taken a chance to look at your website and wow, I'm impressed!  LympheDIVA's has a vast array of choices for consumers.  How do you find the designs for the sleeves?  Is their client feedback on what they would like to wear or is it more of a traditional designer "pitch" type process, on what the next creations should be?

Josh Levin/President:  "It's actually both!  Years ago we used to purchase designs that were already created, but about five or six years ago we brought on two full time designer's .  So now we release three to four new designs during the course of the year.  We look at what's popular, what design has been popular for us as a company, customer feedback (via voting, email, letters), take those results and create a new design.

Sweetlenox:  "Although I don't suffer from Lymphedema, I've talked to quite a few survivors who are managing this side effect of breast cancer treatment.  One survivor in particular stands out.  She is a attractive. fashion savvy young woman who is employed as a Nanny.  She's discussed with me her frustration over the affordability of compression sleeves.  I made a promise to her that I would look into the problem and see if I could help.  When I got the email in my inbox, touting your "Seconds" initiative, I was immediately excited and curios to talk about and offer the information up to my friend and others who may be facing the similar cost issue.  So tell me, what the inspiration behind the "Seconds", how a consumer might benefit and how one goes about obtaining a really cool LympheDIVAs sleeve at a discount!

Josh Levin/President: "The inspiration behind the "Seconds" was simply to be able to help people.  Not everyone has the disposable income to spend on a medical device.  We understand that.  We don't want our products to be unobtainable for those who need it.  As I've said we manufacture our product here in the USA (which was extremely important to Rachel).  During the manufacturing process, sometimes there are slight imperfections in the product that are really difficult to see.  These products or "Seconds" with the small imperfections, allow a pathway for consumers to purchase our product at a discount (usually 50% off).  Currently we offer the "Seconds" via spreadsheet that is updated weekly.  Customers can go on our website or call our toll free number to get the information.  

Sweetlenox: "Is there a limit to the amount of "Seconds" garments one can purchase?  Is the purchase covered by insurance?

Josh Levin/President:  "There is no limit on the amount of "Seconds" garments one can purchase.  As far as insurance coverage, it depends on the individuals specific plan.  Purchasing a compression garment from LympheDIVAs would be considered an out of pocket expense and may be reimbursable, but consumers have to check with their insurance companies first. In addition, Medicare does not cover the cost of a compression garment.

Sweetlenox:  "Got it.  Lastly what does the future hold for LympeDIVAS?  It's a popular belief that if that if the formula "Aint Broke, Don't Fix It" so I'm wondering what you think about the future of your company?

Josh Levin/President:  "This company was built on innovation and LympheDIVA's will always be looking at ways to offer a better and different product.  We are own our own textile mills, make our own pieces and are proud of the fact that our product is produced in North Carolina.  That fact makes it easier to inspect the product, implement changes and reduce turnaround time in production the process of our line.  I think Rachel would be proud of where we have come and where we are headed as a company.  

For more information on purchasing "Seconds" please check out the LymphedeDIVas web site or call the toll free number: 1-866-411-3482 Monday thru Friday 9:00 am-5:00 pm EST.



Photo courtesy LympheDIVAs:  Garment Featured:  Blue Bandit Sleeve